The two trials have shown that both the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and the Beijing Institute/CanSino vaccine are safe over the short term and that the majority of healthy people mount an immune response (Photo: STEVE PARSONS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Major purchase agreement in race for Covid-19 vaccine

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Major purchase agreement in race for Covid-19 vaccine, compelling documentary on Billy TK Jr, and small town teens speak out about difficulty of getting drivers license.

The first Covid-19 vaccine purchase agreement has been made by the government. Radio NZ reports the agreement is for 1.5 million doses, which would theoretically cover half that number of people, and could be ready to roll out early next year – though that’s the most optimistic date. These particular vaccines come from Pfizer, though there are others currently in the works. The purchase is subject to clinical trials taking place successfully, and passing regulatory approval.

For more on the science behind this all, I’d highly encourage you to read this from the NZ Herald’s Jamie Morton. It goes into the different vaccine candidates which are currently being developed, and what other countries are doing. It also discusses how the vaccines actually work, and how different varieties act on the body in different ways. You might also enjoy going back and reading Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris on this topic several months ago.

The prospect of a vaccine has been quite a major talking point over the course of the election campaign. Politicians have routinely been asked to comment on when they believe a vaccine might be available, and what that means for their wider projections and assumptions. That’s because there are huge economic implications to a vaccine being available and widely taken up. A widely vaccinated population creates herd immunity against viruses (see also – measles vaccination rates dropping before the outbreak last year) which gives a much greater potential for avoiding lockdowns, and reopening the border.

Meanwhile, and this is totally an aside: If a vaccine for Covid-19 is made available, all parties currently in parliament (and many more besides) have made it very clear that it will not be compulsory to take it. That’s a talking point that I’ve seen repeatedly raised at public meetings over the campaign season – particularly by supporters of a certain political party – but it’s an odd one, because every party in parliament is on the same page.


A compelling documentary about a political figure who has grown in prominence over the course of this year. Stuff Circuit has put together a piece called False Profit, about Advance NZ co-leader Billy Te Kahika Jr. In particular, it has looked deeply into his claims about his background and whether they stack up. The documentary has also brought to light a claim from someone who used to be close to Te Kahika, which is that his political career is allegedly an attempt to raise money to purchase land and build “a fortress”.


Kids in small towns are speaking out about a lack of access to driving tests, which brings many into contact with the law. Radio NZ’s Tom Kitchin reports from Wairoa about teenagers who have to get to either Gisborne or Napier to get their restricted licenses – at significant expense and with no guarantee of leaving as qualified drivers. That can have significant consequences – in many cases, teenagers end up building up fines from driving without licenses, which in turn creates debt that can negatively alter the course of their futures.


More than a million people have now cast an advance vote for the election. Our live updates reported the total is now 1.15 million, which is a full 43% of the total vote cast in the 2017 election. With a bit under a week to go, it’s also just a shade under the total advance vote from that election. As Newshub reports, there has also been a surge in early overseas voting.


A top ranked Act party candidate who is almost certain to get into parliament hosted climate change denial events at the Nelson school he taught at. The Spinoff’s Stewart Sowman-Lund reports Chris Baillie, number four on Act’s list, has been accused by former Nayland College students of putting on meetings to argue against the scientific consensus on climate change, and to push the view that “climate hysteria” was contributing to New Zealand’s youth suicide rate. Baillie himself says that while some of the language he used may have given the wrong impression, the meetings were fundamentally about promoting critical thinking.


Population growth through migration is very slow at the moment, particularly compared to the same period last year. Interest’s Greg Ninness has crunched the latest numbers from Stats NZ, with a net gain of just 1700 people between April and August – almost 20,000 fewer people than those months in 2019. The reason for that is obvious, being the closed borders from Covid. An interesting counterpoint: Many of the people who arrived before lockdown and likely would have left by now have stayed instead.

Meanwhile, 250 PhD and postgrad students have been granted exemptions to come into the country, reports One News. They’re students who had visas to arrive in 2020, but because of border restrictions weren’t previously able to, and have to be in New Zealand to complete their qualifications. The numbers are way below what we’d normally see for international students, but education minister Chris Hipkins says it’s a step in the right direction.


Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

Right now on The Spinoff: Criminology lecturer Liam Martin writes about the cautious approach being taken by Labour on criminal justice this election, in contrast to the last one. Emily Writes explains all you need to know about mammograms. Our writers spoke to a range of people from marginalised communities about voting, and the barriers they face. Anglican minister Hirini Kaa argues that even with good intentions, the law being voted on in the euthanasia referendum cannot be proofed against racism. 80 year old Roderick Aldridge writes about changing his mind to back legalisation of cannabis. Novelist Bernard Beckett writes about one of the hardest things to do in fiction – finding the right way to finish a story.

And this piece by artist and writer Bob Kerr is on a deeply grim but important historical topic. It looks at a nondescript rural Waikato intersection, and the names on the street signs – they are the names of the British officers who invaded the territory, and in many cases massacred the Māori who lived there.


For a feature today, a historical perspective on how tackling entrenched wealth and property ownership can be done. Business Desk (paywalled) has published a comment by Max Rashbrooke, about the breaking up of massive sheep stations in the 1890s. If that sounds a bit wooly, don’t worry, he brings it back to the present moment. Here’s an excerpt:

Land, at the time so central to prosperity and progress, was labelled as being “locked up” by a small handful of sheep farmers.

Tales were told and retold of young South Islanders having to emigrate north, or even across the Ditch, to find enough land on which to found a decent life.

“If large estates stand in the way of… the progress of the country,” said John McKenzie, the Minister of Lands, “we can claim the right to resume [purchase] such properties on such terms as will do no injustice to the people from whom we take them.”


In sport, LeBron James has led the LA Lakers to a 17th NBA championship. It’s one of the toughest titles the team will ever have achieved, given the immense disruption caused by Covid. ESPN has put together a deep long read about the journey that was required to get to the title, not least overcoming the death of franchise legend Kobe Bryant at the start of the season. It’s a piece that isn’t just about the team as well, but the organisation behind it, which in professional sport matters just as much.


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